PROVO, Utah The word gospel means "good news" and missionaries ought to be radiant and upbeat as they reach out to share the gospel, said President James E. Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency.
"Even when someone rejects the message, missionaries need to learn to have a positive attitude, because the message is still true, whether accepted or not. Now I know that tracting isn't very efficient, but I think it is good for the soul of the missionaries."
"In order to do well, missionary work has to be totally positive," he said.
President Faust addressed the new Mission Presidents Seminar June 23 at the Missionary Training Center here. He was accompanied by his wife, Ruth, and a number of General Authorities. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve and a member of the Missionary Executive Council, conducted. The seminar began June 22 with an address from President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency (see article on this page), and was to conclude June 25. Most of the new presidents and their wives then departed for points across the world to their missions, where they will spend the next three years.
The newest president was Pres. Leonardo Reyes Ortiz of Guadalajara, Mexico. He and his wife, Xochitl Lidia Gomez de Reyes, were called on Friday, June 18 just four days before the seminar started to preside over the Mexico Oaxaca Mission.
"All Sister Reyes could say was 'Si, si, si,'" said President Faust, who issued the call. He commended the couple for accepting on such short notice.
He said that the Reyes and the other mission presidents and their wives will find this experience to be the defining experience of a lifetime in the Church. "And for your missionaries, it ought to be the defining experience in their lives," declared President Faust.
He said that every mission president will want to do everything he can to help each missionary fulfill his or her full potential. The Canada Edmonton Mission slogan suggests how that can be done:
"Faith is the power, obedience is the price, love is the motive, the Spirit is the key and Christ is the reason.
"Your missionaries should recognize that you are all witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that there is nothing more powerful than your own personal witness.
"I believe we must be prepared for more converts coming into the Church than we have ever had before. Perhaps it may not happen in every country. But in the main, the harvest will increase. The Church is being brought out of the wilderness 'clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.' " (D&C 5:14.)
He said that missionaries need to teach absolutes about the gospel.
These absolutes, he explained, are:
"First, that Jesus is Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind through the Atonement. Second, that Joseph Smith was the Prophet who restored the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness and completeness. Third, the Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Christ. Fourth, that all the presidents of the Church since Joseph Smith have been successors to the keys of the authority that Joseph Smith restored. Fifth, President Gordon B. Hinckley is the prophet, seer and revelator to the world at this time."
He said two principles would lead to conversions of people in any country.
"First, the powerful bearing of testimony and, second, being guided by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit."
President Faust told of early leaders baptizing large numbers of converts. However, in contrast to this are many nations where missionaries do not have very many converts. This may lead some missionaries or mission presidents to feel they are failures, he said.
"However, no one fails if they do their best," he asserted. "Brother and sisters, we must take the long view of missionary work; it is the work of God. What is happening in our lifetime is unbelievable. We have missionaries in places that seemed inaccessible only a few years ago. This is an evidence of the fact that the Lord is guiding His work."
He told of his experience as a missionary in Brazil some 60 years ago. "The work was very hard. In all of my mission, I baptized only one person in 33 months. In one year, all 70-plus fine young men in Brazil baptized only three in the whole mission, and these were outstanding young men.
"Now there are 26 missions in Brazil and 186 stakes and over 700,000 members of the Church. Was my mission a failure? I think not. The harvest is the Lord's. Your responsibility is to thrust in the sickle."
He encouraged mission leaders to teach mission rules from the white Missionary Handbook so the mission will be in harmony with Church policy. He also counseled the mission presidents to always speak well of their predecessors.
Mission presidents would do well to express their love, trust, support for their missionaries and tell them that their families, friends, temple patrons, and General Authorities continue to pray for them, President Faust continued.
"We are in the business of communication. Missionaries need to communicate with people if we are to teach them the gospel. . . . But the missionaries still need to have the right attitude in contacting people. They need to cast aside all fear and be positive about the great message which is here."
Missionaries, he declared, should "fear not and doubt not. We have a leader who fears not and doubts not."
President Faust said that he is convinced that "missionary work will never be what it might be without the help of the members. Stake presidents need to feel some responsibility and ownership of missionary work. The stake president is the one who has the presiding priesthood keys over both the members and non-members in his stake. The missionaries are his helpers."
President Faust emphasized that there are not two separate churches one a missionary church and the other an ecclesiastical church. "There is only one Church, and the responsibility for missionary work is universal. 'Every member a missionary.' "
He urged the mission leaders to keep converts active in the Church.
"President Hinckley's strong, continuing challenge to us is retention, which requires full cooperation between the missionary, the leaders and members.